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Travelport, Sabre, Orbitz Must Face AMR’s Antitrust Suit

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Aug. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Sabre Holdings Corp., Travelport LP and Orbitz Worldwide Inc. must face American Airlines Inc.’s antitrust claims, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Terry R. Means in Fort Worth, Texas, yesterday publicly released his previously sealed Aug. 7 decision at the companies’ request.

American claims Sabre, Orbitz and Travelport are conspiring to block the carrier from entering the electronic flight data and reservations market via its AA Direct Connect system, in violation of federal antitrust laws.

“American identifies the specific intent to monopolize allegedly shared by Sabre, Travelport and Orbitz,” Means wrote in his 23-page ruling, denying defense motions to dismiss those claims filed under a part of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

The case is part of a dispute triggered by Fort Worth-based American’s move to provide flight information directly to travel agents rather than going through the three data providers.

Jill Brenner, a spokeswoman for Atlanta-based Travelport, said in an e-mail statement today that “AA’s claims against Travelport are without merit both as a matter of law and as a matter of fact.” In an Aug. 16 ruling, Means threw out Travelport counterclaims against the airline owned by bankrupt AMR Corp.

“We continue to dispute these allegations and will defend ourselves vigorously, with the expectation that Orbitz will prevail,” Marita Thomas, a spokeswoman for Chicago-based Orbitz, said today in an e-mail.

‘No Decision’

“There was no decision on the merits of the claims,” said Nancy St. Pierre, a spokeswoman for Southlake, Texas-based Sabre. “The judge did not say American’s claims were valid, only that American had made allegations sufficient to meet the minimal pleading requirements of federal court.”

“American makes a number of unsupported allegations which Sabre denies,” she said.

The company’s Sabre Inc. unit, which was spun off from AMR in 2000, is the largest U.S.-based global distributor of fare data. Sabre Holdings is also the parent of online travel agent Travelocity.com.

“The court’s order confirms that American has adequately pleaded numerous antitrust claims against the defendants, including monopolization and conspiracy claims,” the airline said yesterday in an e-mailed statement.

“We would prefer to resolve our dispute with the defendants amicably, but any such resolutions need to end anticompetitive practices and to account for the harm done to American,” American said in the statement. “We are convinced these claims have substantial merit, and absent settlements, we intend to continue vigorously pursuing our legal rights.”

The case is American Airlines Inc. v. Travelport Ltd., 11-cv-00244, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Fort Worth).

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Harris in Chicago at aharris16@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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